Breathing underwater? What a strange idea. No thank you, I’ll pass.
It had never occurred to me that scuba diving could be a recreational activity. I had always perceived it as a extreme sport, something I neither qualified for, nor ever wanted to submit myself to in any case.
I’m not claustrophobic, I just like the feel of the ground below my feet, and the abundance of fresh, breathable air all around my nose. Like most humans, I expect.
So what drove me to try out scuba ? Nothing. I was invited to try out the nautical activities offered by a holiday center in Hyeres, South of France. Scuba diving was on the menu, and I thought I’d pass, but I was assured that it would be « just a try dive », for 10 to 15 minutes only. Hardly anything to fret about.
But I was scared, I won’t lie. I was making jokes all through the briefing, something I later learned is a tell tale of stress in a diver.
I was so stressed, that I had a panic attack on the boat ride to our diving location. I had to wait 45 minutes, and let other divers go first, before I could calm down and catch my breath.
We were doing a backroll entry in the water, and up to the very last moment, I was thinking about backing down. Why do something that is so clearly upsetting me?
Curiosity (killed the cat)
Curiosity, I guess. No, I know. I know why I did it, ultimately. I was curious to see what was under the surface. Not just get a peak through a glass window, but actually go there.
Have you ever dreamt that you were an explorer? Have you ever dreamt that you were stepping somewhere no one had ever set foot before, venturing through unknown territories?
The underwater world appealed to me that way. Of course it was scary. Of course I was terrified. It’s a perfectly normal reaction to have. Yet that fear was stirring up and becoming excitement.
When I hit the water, I stopped breathing immediately, teeth clenched around the rubber mouth of the regulator. I felt a hand grip my shoulder, and though my eyes were wide open, I couldn’t see anything. I had to blink several times to bring the image into focus.
I was facing my instructor, gaze locked into his eyes, and he was telling me to breathe.
What a strange idea. Of course I have to hold my breath, we are underwater for God’s sake, I CAN’T breathe down there!
…Wait… Can’t I?
And just like that, I tried. I breathed out first, and I felt myself sink down. Then I sucked in with everything I had.
I could breathe. I did it again, slowly, 3 times, just to check that it was really possible. Yeah, it’s still working.
Then we started moving down, me taking care of my ears, him controlling my descent. Then we began to swim forward, but I hung on to his arm the entire time.
Then I flew above the bottom of the sea, into the blue.
I felt heavy and gauche, but incredibly light at the same time. I felt awkward and agitated, and at the same time, slow and gracious. I felt liberated, freed from gravity, and at the same time, trapped inside a body of water I couldn’t escape in a kick.
I was scuba diving, and it felt like something out of this world. Come to think of it, that’s exactly what it is. The underwater world does not belong to ours. We were not designed for it. This must be why every breath I draw below there feels like a victory.
A life-changing experience
In France, the try dive is called a baptism, and I understand why. It’s quite a rite of passage, when I think of it. At least it was for me! Before, I was scared of the sea. I was easily sea sick (still is, but I’m fighting it & making quite some progress too), but I was especially simply afraid of going away on a boat.
Two years later, I have more than 70 dives logged, a Level 2 CMAS & a PADI Rescue in my pocket, and I’m currently spending my summer at the South West tip of Sulawesi, Indonesia, getting trained as a Divemaster.
I have dived in the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Caribbean Sea, and now the Indonesian Sea.
I have met dozens of passionate divers, listened to their stories, dreamt about the exceptional marine life they’ve encountered, hoping to match that excitement in futures dives.
When I look back to my very first dive, I can hardly believe my own journey in the scuba diving world. A « baptism » they call it. You can either join the community, or choose to stay away. Come to think of it, I think there are only two possible outcomes of a try dive: you’ll either decide that scuba diving is not for you, or you’ll be taken with it, and you will want to do it again as soon as possible.
I fell in love with scuba diving, at first sight. It has become quite an addiction, I must say. But isn’t that a form of love anyway?!